Access to dependable internet has always been a problem for lower-economic and rural communities, but the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic has turned the problem into a crisis, as workers rely on broadband for their livelihoods, students for their education, and health care professionals to deliver telehealth services.
That’s why the California Forward Action Fund (the advocacy arm of CA FWD), the California Economic Summit, and members of the California Stewardship Network delivered a letter of support to State Senator Lena Gonzalez and State Assemblymember Cecilia Aguiar-Curry for their efforts to close the digital divide with Senate Bill 4, the Broadband for All Act, and Assembly Bill 14, the Internet for All Act, respectively. Both SB 4 and AB 14 align with Governor Newsom’s executive order to develop a state broadband action plan by the end of 2020.
The signatories on the letter applauded both legislators for their commitment to address the growing crisis and asked them to “continue to urge the Legislature to swiftly support the alignment, protection, and passage of important statutory changes and increased funding to help meet the state’s significant deployment and adoption needs.”
The letter of support also requests the legislators to prioritize a number of actions including funding investments in high-speed internet infrastructure to jumpstart economic recovery, prioritizing rural unserved areas and urban poor underserved neighborhoods, and setting threshold speeds, among others.
Closing the digital divide is a top priority for CA FWD, the California Economic Summit and the California Stewardship Network, as access to broadband is frequently cited as being key to unlocking economic growth in the state’s diverse regions. CA FWD has and continues to partner with key groups across the state including the California Emerging Technology Fund (CETF), Valley Vision, and the Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development (GO-Biz) to work toward providing digital equity for all Californians.
“Broadband is a necessity to develop inclusive, sustainable and vibrant economies across the state,” said Micah Weinberg, CEO of CA FWD. “It’s an essential tool for achieving racial, economic and geographic equity.”
The 2020 California Economic Summit included an “Ensuring Broadband for All” working session in December. The three priorities identified at that session include: achieving swift and collaborative legislative solutions, proactively implementing the State Broadband Action Plan, and advancing new innovations to address deployment adoption, and funding.
Click here to read the letter to Senator Gonzalez and Assemblymember Aguiar-Curry.